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November 15, 2022

Fair Board appoints Dietrich as interim CEO

WATSONVILLE — In a tumultuous meeting packed with nearly 100 people, the newly transformed Santa Cruz County Fair Board appointed Don Dietrich as interim Fair CEO, a move that added another chapter to a story that began on Oct. 4 when the Board fired former CEO Dave Kegebein.

Immediately after the expected vote, Board member Stephanie Fontana took over as Board President.

In the wake of Kegebein’s dismissal, Board member Bill Barton resigned, as did Board Secretary Mary Bannister. 

The California Governor’s office on Friday abruptly terminated Board members Loretta Estrada and Jody Belgard, and replaced them by appointing Nick Calubaquib and Rachel Wells. 

Roughly one dozen speakers excoriated the Board for the decision, while praising Kegebein’s decade as CEO.

Under open meeting laws, elected leaders cannot respond to comments unless the issues brought forth are agendized. Dietrich asked that the comments be placed on the agenda for the next meeting, saying he would address them all then.

Kegebein was fired in a 7-2 vote after an audit by the California Department of Food and Agriculture showed he used a state-issued credit card for fuel for his truck. At issue was that he did not submit the receipts for approval.

In an address to the Board, Kegebein presented a check for $33,000 in repayment for the fuel, and handed the Board his response to the audit.

This story will be updated

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